Yesterday, one of England's greatest assets decided to retire from test cricket. He said that his body could not cope anymore.
England might never recover from losing Andrew Flintoff. He was a batsman who could bludgeon any opposition, and opponents feared his bowling. He was not always able to fulfill his potential as a player, but his mere presence was enough to intimidate the opposition.
Instead of discussing his talent, I want to understand what has caused this new kind of retirement. Bowing out from one format of the game to give your body a rest so you can last longer in another.
This is one ball that Flintoff could not avoid.
There is something quite interesting about this. A few months ago Jacob Oram, the Kiwi all-rounder, said he will give up either his batting or his bowling to continue to play the game in all three formats.
Is it almost impossible for a player to bat and bowl and enjoy a long career in all forms of the game? It comes down to the amount of cricket being played.
So, what are we doing to cricket? Rid it of all-rounders? Maybe soon we could rid it of some of the batsmen and bowlers as well.
What are we getting by playing so much cricket?
Don't worry though, things will even out. To compensate for the amount of cricket played today, we can look forward to a future where there is no cricket at all. All the players would be incapacitated due to an injury, or would have abandoned the sport.
To be a sportsperson, high fitness levels and stamina are required, but this is getting a bit crazy. You have a domestic tournament like the IPL, which has quasi-top level cricket being played for a month. This increases the risk of players getting injured.
They could also get hurt in the domestic season, but the IPL requires higher levels of energy, so the chances are less.
These are the long-term consequences:
1) Limited overs cricket gaining the upper hand over test cricket. Most players think that test cricket is the ultimate game. But if so many of them decide to quit, as their bodies are unable to withstand the rigours of the game, then it doesn't make a difference what the players think.
The way the ICC is going, I'm sure they would capitalise on this by adding a few more T20 tournaments.
2) The quality of cricket is going to drop. The most talented players are the most adversely affected by a greater amount of cricket. Their team depends on them for good performances. If they are the guys moving out of the game, cricket is not going to be worth watching.
We will start seeing more second-string teams playing at the top level. Not because boards were unable to pay the the top players, but because the first string were unfit.
Another very interesting point is raised: Are players match fit?
These guys go to the gym and work out for hours, then they break down on the field. Is this fitness training really beneficial?
Geoffrey Boycott once said, "Players today are gym fit. Not match fit."
This sums up the entire problem.
Cricket is not growing in the right direction. All boards these days want their players to have great muscles, and that's all. They forget that this move can really prove dangerous.
First of all, spending longer in the gym means less time to work on a players individual game.
Secondly, if players give the proper time to practice, along with working overtime in the gym, then he they are bound to end up like Freddie did.
If things continue as they are, the future of cricket is not very bright. Meaning our future is not very bright, as we will not have anything to write about! It is important we raise such issues. Not only because we love the sport, but also because we will lose our jobs.